Put Down Your Phone And Save My Black Life

Paul Lachine illustration

From Hartford Courant / By Frank Harris III

I was thinking about Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and other blacks across the country killed by police. I was thinking about their images posted on YouTube for the world to see. I was thinking about how I don’t want to be like them.

See, I survived police interactions that could have gone bad at ages 13, 16, 18, 19 and 57.

I am now 58 and despite my advancing maturity, I have long understood there is no age-related statute of limitations on being a black male in America. I have also come to understand that many in this country believe that whipping out their smartphone to record these “incidents” is the ultimate fulfillment of their civic, if not humane, duty.

Which is why I am presenting what I call “My living will with regard to the police.”

It goes like this:

Should you witness me being mistreated, manhandled, beaten, kicked, choked, shot, gasping and otherwise heading out of this life at the hands of a law enforcement officer or a group of officers, please understand that while I appreciate your recording all this on your smartphone, do know that when I’m dead I won’t be coming back.

And while I understand you won’t know that I don’t have a criminal record, a violent past, an arsenal of weapons or that I treat everyone with respect, and it is highly unlikely that I did anything to warrant the mistreatment you are witnessing, I would appreciate it if you would put your smartphone in your pocket or purse and help me.

Let someone else record it.

If you are alone, record a bit, then put your phone down and assist me.

I know this is asking a lot. I am asking you to risk arrest, which is asking you to put your life on the line to save mine. But I want to live.

You see, sometimes recording it is not enough — not if officers are applying unwarranted force. So ask the officer or officers to stop. Talk, yell, scream at them to stop. Tell them it’s being recorded. Remind them that the whole world will watch how he or she is treating me. Don’t take a minute to do it.

If I am unresponsive, don’t let them ignore me. Insist they give me medical attention. Better still, you give me medical attention. I want to live, damn it!

Can you do something? Will you do something?

I am asking you to keep me off the YouTube queue of those whose names symbolize police killings of black males. I am asking you to avert the protests before they start. Render them needless. Or at least make it a protest I can attend on Earth, not in heaven.

Save my black life.

I am asking you to stop them from making me another of the litany of black lives lost resulting in protesters carrying signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” only to be countered by others harping how “all” lives matter, which is a hijacking and a minimizing of the fact that they know that black lives are not regarded or treated the same.

I am asking you to stop them from making me a part of the low expectations blacks have set when we celebrate, as was done in Baltimore, the mere arrest of the officers in Freddie Gray’s death.

Yes, I get that we have received so little in terms of justice that even the arrest of a law enforcement officer is satisfying. We did not get that with Eric Garner and would not have gotten that for Walter Scott had not the video shown South Carolina Officer Michael Slager shooting him in cold blood.

But still, it does not bring back the dead.

Like Freddy and Eric and Walter and …

This is “Frank’s living will with regard to the police.” Presented because I love life.

Presented because what the world needs now is not another black male on YouTube shown killed by a law enforcement officer.

Presented because I want you to SMBL — save my black life.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy

    Truth….. And I will remember it !!!!

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